Category Archives: 2013

The Twenty-Fourth Week

This week was interesting, but not as productive as past weeks. I blame myself for this (see “Mama’s Adventures” below). In any case, I’ll start with…

Lillia’s Adventures

life in ancient china coverHaving done a fast sweep of the Indus Valley civilization last week, we moved ahead into our study of Ancient China. We are using Life in Ancient China, by Paul Challen as our spine for this unit. My one complaint about both this and the book we used for the Indus Valley civilization is that the author’s definition of “ancient” often encompasses what I consider the medieval period, which I plan to cover next year. I don’t know if that is a by-product of some sort of Western bias or Euro-centric way of thinking, or if there just isn’t enough information about these ancient civilizations to make the book interesting. My guess is that it’s probably the former. We haven’t read the whole book yet because I plan to study the Ancient Far East for at least another week or so.

tao of pooh coverThis week we also started reading The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff. This is a wonderful introduction to the philosophy of Taoism (pronounced DOW-ISM, in case you were wondering). I chose this as our “primary source,” although it is actually a secondary source, because I think it is a really clever way to study the Tao Te Ching (pronounced DOW-DE-JEENG), an ancient Chinese text written around the 6th century BCE. In this week’s chapters we learned about the concept of the “Uncarved Block” (or P’u). As Benjamin Hoff observed, Winnie-the-Pooh is the epitome of the “uncarved block.” He is always in his natural state, not encumbered by cleverness or knowledge. Things work out for him because he does not fight his own inner nature. Having read all of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, Lillia can really understand what Hoff is trying to say, philosophically, through the various characters in the stories.

Life of Fred continues to be challenging. This week we learned what to do when you need to borrow from a number to subtract, but the next number available is a zero. Although Lillia got frustrated at first, after a quick review she understood and was able to complete the problem easily. I really like that Life of Fred doesn’t rely on endless repetition to teach concepts, as Lillia often understands after the first try or, at the most, no more than one or two reviews.

Lillia has been very pedagogical this week. She was intent on teaching Zane to write his letters (developmentally inappropriate, I know, but they were bonding). She was so pleased when he made an “A.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that toddlers are really good at imitating us.



We’ve finally finished learning all of the cursive letters, and we’ll be moving on to practicing writing words!

Zane’s Adventures

This week, Zane has been doing a lot of “reading.” Of course, he’s just imitating what he sees. His family members read a lot.

Oops, it’s upside down!

That’s better.

Here he’s “reading” his sister’s math notebook.



He’s been an out-of-control climbing machine. This kid is a problem solver. If he wants to go up, he’ll find a way to get there.



He’s also been really interested in undressing himself (diaper included, much to his parents’ dismay). One would think overalls would be a deterrent but sadly, no.



In all seriousness, I’m pretty excited about his interest in doing things for himself. Lillia is a very parent-centered child, which is great…except when it’s not. I would love for her to get her own glass of water once in awhile. Still, every child is different, and I love them both equally despite, and for, their differences.

Mama’s Adventures

I make a lot of confessions on this blog and I try to be really honest about my shortcomings. Being an INFP personality type means I’m always striving for self-improvement. This week I am feeling a lot of self-doubt. I wonder — is homeschooling actually making a difference for Lillia? Is she learning anything? Does it even matter that I stay home, or would the family be better served by a second income? I can say with some degree of certainty that at least one of my children benefits from my being home (Zane) because he doesn’t have to spend the day in child care. Lillia is a trickier situation…

I started out this year thinking that I wanted to design my own curriculum from the ground up. I would do everything myself. But, the further along into the school year we got, the more I started to think that I must have been absolutely nuts to try and do that! I’m okay with most of what we do, but I feel like everything is very disjointed. There are no connections between the different subjects. Also, I had envisioned a much more hands-on experience for Lillia with lots of fun projects (something different than the pile of worksheets she did every day in public school). But, I haven’t been able to pull that off. I feel like she is not really engaged with the work. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is useless. I’m looking for something more along the lines of the misattributed Yeats quote, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” From what I can see, there’s not much of a fire happening at our house right now.

Sure, she does the work without complaint (most days), but I can tell she’s not really interested. She’d rather be doing something else. Such is the nature of kids, I know, but I didn’t pull her out of school to bore her to death. I wanted her to experience another way of learning. I wanted her to make discoveries and have epiphanies. I wanted her little light to shine so bright that the whole world would say, “There is a child who loves to learn!” Okay…maybe my hopes were a little unrealistic. But, I still want that for her, to whatever degree it’s actually possible.

To that end, I just spent $150 for used copies of Oak Meadow’s 3rd and 4th grade syllabi. I first heard of the “inspired by Waldorf education” homeschooling curriculum from Oak Meadow about four years ago, when Lillia was wrapping up her kindergarten year at our local Waldorf school. She had an amazing year, and I am a big fan of Waldorf education (though I run away screaming from dogma, and some Waldorfians can be a little too dogmatic for my taste). Rudolf Steiner may have been looking at child development through the lens of anthroposophy, but his observations were spot on. I trust his methods because I feel that he honestly understood children in a way that most people don’t. Looking ahead to fourth grade, Oak Meadow students study Native Americans, make dioramas of local flora, and research animal behavior. Those are topics that Lillia is already interested in, so I think she will enjoy it. I love that everything is integrated (except math — we will keep using Life of Fred because we love it so much). It seems very comprehensive. And, most of all, it sounds very creative and flexible. For every lesson there is a list of optional projects. We were going to study the Middle Ages next year, and we still can. There’s no one who loves to read more than Lillia, and what I had planned was mostly just reading a spine and supplementing with library books. Once I have a chance to look over the materials, I’ll write a more in-depth review. If my books arrive in time, I will try out the third trimester of the grade three syllabus this year during our last trimester.

I feel better just knowing that I’m trying to make improvements. I’m not afraid of change, and I am humble enough to admit when something isn’t working (at least not optimally). I try to embrace all of the possibilities, and I know I’m at my best when I am striving.

“I was taught to strive not because there were any guarantees of success but because the act of striving is in itself the only way to keep faith with life.” — Madeleine Albright

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog.

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The Twenty-Third Week

Let’s dive right in with…

Lillia’s Adventures

indus river valley coverThis week we began our study of the Ancient Far East with a mini-unit on the Indus River Valley civilization. The textbook we are using this year for our studies of various ancient world civilizations only allotted a few pages to various non-European civilizations, so I chose to use other books as our “spine” for this unit. For the first installment I chose Life in the Ancient Indus River Valley, by Hazel Richardson. Overall, this book gave a good review of the two cultures from the Indus Valley — the Harappans and the Aryans. Did you know that the Indus River (to which the civilization owes its name) actually completely changed course and the area that was once inhabited by the Harappans is now a desert? Another river essential to the Harappans, the Sarawathi River, dried up completely.

Because I think it is important to learn about other cultures through their own works of art, music, and literature I always try to provide primary sources for each of our humanities units. For this unit, I chose the ancient Hindu text known as the Ramayana, which dates to the 5th or 4th century BCE. While not directly related to the Indus Valley civilization, the Ramayana is the cultural descendant of the people living in this area, and some scholars believe that the events and places described in the Ramayana are reflections of a historical understanding of the earlier cultures (though there is no proof of this). Regardless, the Ramayana is the primary source I chose to present for this unit. I’d love to hear if anyone has other suggestions.

story of divaali coverI tried to give Lillia a well-rounded, yet age-appropriate, view of the Ramayana by selecting severa books, each offering a different perspective of the tale. The first version we read was The Story of Divaali, written by Jatinder Verma and illustrated by Nilesh Mistry. This beautifully illustrated picture book is a retelling of the Ramayana that is completely appropriate for children. Lillia wanted to know why Rama’s skin is depicted as being blue, so we did some research. Though it’s difficult to find a clear answer, it seems to have something to do with his spirtuality and his depth, and perhaps his level of consciousness. Krishna is also frequently shown with blue skin.

hanuman coverWe also read Hanuman, written by Erik Jendresen and Joshua M. Greene, and illustrated by Li Ming. This picture book is a retelling of the Ramayana from Hanuman’s perspective. Hanuman is the monkey god who joins with Rama to defeat the demon king, Ravana, and bring Sita back to safety. The illustrations in this book are incredible, and the shift in perspective brings clarity to the other retellings that we read.

sita's ramayana coverLastly, we took a look at the story from Sita’s point of view, reading Sita’s Ramayana, by Samhita Arni & Moyna Chitrakar. While I usually read our primary sources aloud to Lillia, she read this one to herself because it is a graphic novel. I find it difficult, if not impossible, to read graphic novels and comic books out loud. In any case, Lillia was able to identify that this was another retelling of the same story, and correctly noted that it was different in that it was told from a woman’s point of view. I highly recommend this book, with the caveat that it is probably best suited for older elementary children.

In Life of Fred: Farming, we learned about the unification of sets. For example, if you have the union of the sets {nachos} and {nachos, napkin, jelly bean}, the result is {nachos, napkin, jelly bean}. You don’t include nachos twice in a unification of sets (I never learned about sets in school so this is all new to me!). We also learned how to subtract by borrowing when you have to borrow more than once. This is exactly the sort of situation that makes Lillia really upset. If she doesn’t get it right away all by herself, she has a mental breakdown. It takes some reassurance and some persistence on my part to bring her back to reality and help her to actually learn how to perform a new skill. After that, it’s usually fine as she is a very quick learner (once she decides she wants to learn).

Zane’s Adventures

This week went by so fast that I didn’t have the chance to take many pictures. Zane and I spent quite a bit of time outside this week, cleaning up the yard and just enjoying being outside. Early in the week it was so warm and beautiful, but it turned colder later in the week. Zane doesn’t seem to mind the cold, as long as he’s properly bundled (Lillia insists that I am always overdressing him).

Zane discovered this wooden barn of Lillia’s in the garage one afternoon. It’s so amazing to think that just 18 months ago he was plastered to the earth, unable even to turn his head voluntarily. Now, he can play pretend with farm animals. It’s pretty cute.



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The Twenty-Second Week

The blog hosting switcheroo is complete so I can finally post my update for last week!

Lillia’s Adventures

This week we finally finished up our study of Ancient Egypt and we’re looking forward to moving on to the Far East! Lillia had a good week. Because I’m already living in the next week, I’m not going to give details of what we did, but I do want to share some beautiful artwork made by our very own resident artist, Lillia.

A self-portait using pastels.


An interesting study in pattern-making using watercolors.


And, my favorite, a beautiful self-portrait using acrylics.


I hung them up on a big, blank wall in the kitchen and they really brightened up the space.

Zane’s Adventures

Last week Zane was also very involved in artistic pursuits. He made all sorts of interesting sculptures from random household objects. For example, he built this interesting tower using the leftover breakfast dishes. The radio was also involved — maybe it was some sort of art installation.



And, this is a lovely creation made of objects he scavenged from the refrigerator.


This week Zane developed a real love of green smoothies. I can’t say I’m disappointed.


He played in his room quite a bit. We recently moved this shelf in there, and now he has lots of books and toys at his disposal (and out of my living room). He most often wants company. He even pats his little hand on the floor to show us where to sit.


And, lastly, he sang constantly — in the shower, while he was playing — and it was always “Jingle Bells.”

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The Twenty-First Week

This week was vacation week in our district, but we chose to homeschool because I didn’t feel we really needed a break right now, and Lillia had things she wanted to do…

Lillia’s Adventures

ancient egypt unearthed coverAlthough this was supposed to be our last week studying Ancient Egypt, Lillia has requested an additional week in order to finish up Gods and Pharaohs. I also found a really great DVD set at the library that she seems to really enjoy. In fact, she always wants to watch extra episodes. It’s called “Ancient Egypt Unearthed,” featuring Dr. Zahi Hawass, and you can buy it on Amazon for only $11.98. I think that’s a spectacularly good deal for the vast amount of information it contains (you can also rent it from Netflix). Dr. Hawass may be a controversial character, but he has accomplished quite a lot in his career and has done much for the study of Egyptology. Here is a list of episodes included on the discs, in case anyone is curious or wants to know for planning purposes:
Disc One
Episode 1, “Chaos and Kings”
Episode 2, “Pyramid: The Resurrection Machine”
Episode 3, “Age of Gold”
Episode 4, “Deities and Demons”
Episode 5, “Mummies: Into the Afterlife”
Disc Two
Episode 6, “Egypt’s Ten Greatest Discoveries”
Episode 7, “Secrets of Egypt’s Lost Queen”
Episode 8, “Why Ancient Egypt Fell”
Episode 9, “Women Pharaohs”

I haven’t written much about our cursive handwriting program in weeks, mostly because Lillia has just been plugging away at it and there hasn’t been much drama. But, I just have to share her work from this past week. When she wants to, she can write beautifully. I know I say this a lot, but I am so proud of her. (The doodles are a bonus!)

lillia cursive 1

We received Life of Fred: Farming and have made our way through chapter four already. As Fred‘s author announced in the second chapter, we are now officially done “learning” addition. There will still be lots of addition practice, but there will be no more direct lessons about it. This seems like a milestone of some kind and I am so excited to see what is coming next! In the meantime, I gathered some skip counting “songs” from several sources so that Lillia and I can start working on the multiplication tables. I think that skip counting will help her to understand the larger theory behind multiplication (and give her a mnemonic device to use if she forgets the answer). She already knows the 1’s, 2’s, 5’s and 10’s, so we’ll be starting with the 3’s (click here for a PDF of all the songs I plan to use):

Counting by 3’s
(Sung to the tune of “Frère Jacques”)
3, 6, 9, 12
3, 6, 9, 12
15, 18,
15, 18,
21 and 24,
27, 30

We’re going to the library this afternoon because Lillia is dying to read the last book in the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. Lillia reads way above grade level so it can be difficult to find books that are challenging to read but still appropriate, content-wise. She also just finished up the Kane Chronicles, a series built around Egyptian mythology by the same author. If you have an above-grade level reader, I highly recommend any of Rick Riordan’s books for young adults.

Zane’s Adventures

Because he’s so interested in cooking I’ve been teaching Zane how to make breakfast. Here he is stirring his oatmeal.



And, making my coffee 🙂



He even helped Lillia make scrambled eggs!


Mama’s Adventures

I thought it might be nice to include my own experiences as an educator in my weekly update. After all, I’m learning, too!

When I met with the homeschooling moms last week I expressed to them how difficult the first half of the year had been for us. With a gentle, yet knowing, smile one of them said to me, “Well, you needed to decompress.” Ah ha! So there is a word for the hell (pardon my language) that was our first semester! Though I try to refrain from preaching on this blog, I’m going to pass on some words of advice that I wish I had gotten back in the summer when I was up to my ears in curriculum materials and trying to plan out the most perfect homeschool year ever — if you are a new homeschooler coming from a formal school setting, you need to set aside at least a couple of months to “decompress.”

You won’t know what I’m talking about until it happens. You can plan things but you need to know that most of what you plan won’t happen, and you need to be okay with that. You can ignore this advice and plow ahead, and you will find that it will be an uphill battle all the way. But, if you take the opportunity to slow down and just be with your child, you will be sparing yourself a lot of frustration, heartache, and doubt. One day you will discover that your child, who couldn’t get through 10 minutes of homeschooling at first, will be sailing through her work like an old pro. For us this day has finally come, and I am so, so proud of Lillia. I give this advice from the very bottom of my heart, and I hope that my words will be meaningful and helpful to someone else.

I hope you all had a good week, whether you were educating or vacationing…or both 🙂


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The Twentieth Week

Twenty weeks? Is that really possible? What an interesting journey this has been so far. This week felt very busy to me. I feel like we were out of the house quite a bit, and I’m trying to figure out how best to organize this post to give an accurate picture of how our week went. I guess the best place to start would be…

Lillia’s Adventures

Note: I was recently informed that too many of my photos feature the back of Lillia’s head. This week I did my very best to get as many shots as I could of her beautiful face 🙂


This week started off with…snow! Lillia loves playing in the snow, and outdoor time will always take precedence over academics around here. It took her a couple of days to carve out this snow fort, but she was very proud of herself when she was done.


Despite the lure of the outdoors, we were able to get a lot done, academically, thanks to the new software I started using (blogged about here). We are in our second-to-last week of our Ancient Egypt unit, and this week we learned about the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb. What a wonderful experience that must have been for Howard Carter! Given the considerable amount of treasure contained in Tut’s burial tomb, despite its hastily thrown together nature, we must assume that some of the greater and more long-lived pharaohs were buried with an astounding amount of wealth. It really is a pity that most of the tombs were robbed of their treasures, most likely not long after the pharaoh’s death, and that the best efforts of the tomb architects to deter thieves were not successful. Still, Tut’s tomb does give us a glimpse of the power, the wealth, and the significance of the pharaohs in their own time. Next week Lillia told me she would like to learn more about the gods and goddesses, and their religious significance, in Ancient Egypt. So, I am on the hunt for a good documentary that will give a nice overview of the Ancient Egyptian deities. I did a quick search on YouTube, but was fairly disappointed at the amount of rubbish that came up when I typed in “egyptian mythology.” If I find anything useful, I will post it here.

We were waiting for the Life of Fred: Farming to arrive so we didn’t do much with math, although we did work with division a bit when we were trying to figure out how best to break up the valentines that Lillia needed to make. She was invited to exchange valentines with the third grade at our local public school (which she attended for 1st and 2nd grade, and still attends twice a week for P.E. and Art). This year we kept the process fairly simple because we had 36 kids to make cards for, plus a few teachers, and we spread the workload over several days. I find this is the best way to tackle large jobs that tend to overwhelm Lillia.



I had prepared Lillia for the possibility that she might not get any valentines because she is not on the class rosters. I was completely shocked and very touched when she showed me that both classes had prepared a bag full of valentines for her! Unlike families that homeschool from the start, when we made the decision to keep Lillia home we also made the decision to leave the school that had been our educational and social community for two years. I sometimes feel a little guilty about that, and our ties to the wider community are weaker because we are not involved with the school system in the traditional way. However, this gesture of goodwill and kindness made me feel less like an outsider, and I am very appreciative of their efforts to include Lillia.


And, lastly, we did finally attend our local homeschooling group meet-up at the library. It was a small group this week, but that was really nice because we were able to get comfortable and acquainted without being overwhelmed by the dynamics of a large group. At first Lillia and Zane kind of did their own thing and colored quietly at one of the tables.


After about twenty minutes the kids all discovered each other and started playing tag, which eventually became “hound dog pack.” Lillia was the oldest and, given the right ingredients, she is a natural leader. She kept all the hounds on task for at least 45 minutes, and it is so good for kids to play with a mixed age group (that’s what real socialization is about!). I think both kids actually had a good time, and we’ll definitely be going back. It was also nice for me to have other homeschooling parents to talk to in person. It certainly makes me feel less isolated.

Zane’s Adventures

This week Zane helped us make valentines. I was so impressed with his fine motor skills — he actually used the glue stick appropriately!


He played with the shape sorter (with help from his big sister). He can put all the shapes into the correct holes, but he has a hard time figuring out which side to use. I know he will master it soon.



He did some serious plumbing in his kitchen.


He had a great time building block towers with Nanny (my mother). He can build a very small tower of his own, but he likes knocking them over more than he likes building them.


He helped Oliver keep an eye on the neighborhood cats.


And, he was really excited to get this awesome cupboard for his kitchen area from one of my daughter’s friends. The work surface is a bit high, but he will grow into it. And, it’s great for storing all of his tools, dishes, and play food.


I hope you all had a wonderful week!


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The Eighteenth & Nineteenth Weeks

Here I am again with a two-week combo post. Ideally, I would really like to get back to my weekly updating schedule, but I am also in school (as of last month) and I find that most of my free time is being co-opted by schoolwork, mostly reading. So, I can’t promise that I will always be on time, but I am going to try and post every week, even if it’s just a short summary. Without further ado…

Lillia’s Adventures

pyramid by david macaulayFor the past two weeks we have been working our way through David Macaulay’s book, Pyramid. Macaulay, an illustrator and professor of art at the Rhode Island School of Design, traveled to Egypt to study the landscape and the pyramids in preparation for the writing of his wonderful book. Pyramid is a fictional story based on the real-life construction of a large pyramid on the Giza plateau. It was so fascinating to learn how the Ancient Egyptians were able to plan and carry out building on such a large scale. Their innovation and creativity in solving some difficult problems (such as how to move very, very heavy blocks of stone) is truly inspiring. The dedication of the workers to their task is also quite remarkable. We also watched an old PBS documentary about the pyramids, hosted by Macaulay himself, which you can watch for free on YouTube.

Last week, in Jacob’s Ladder, we read “The Dog and His Reflection,” and then discussed the consequences and implications of his actions. We talked about the “price” that the dog paid for his greed, and made a chart of the different qualities that the dog possessed, attributing both positive and negative aspects to each one. This week we read “The Fisherman and His Wife” and then discussed the consequences of both the wife’s demands and the husband’s willingness to act on them.

Lillia also started to work on a new “book,” based on the Warriors series by Erin Hunter. She’s been diligently typing away during her free time. I highly recommend allowing children to use the computer or a word processor for writing exercises or creative writing, especially if they are resistant writers. We created this work space for Lillia in her closet (which I blogged about elsewhere). Now she has a designated area to do independent work, and some privacy from grabbing hands (little brothers).


This week we finished Life of Fred: Edgewood, and I am scrambling to order the next book for the coming week. Thankfully, the supplier ships very promptly. This wasn’t my favorite book in the Life of Fred series. The educational content was superb but I felt that the plot of the story was a bit contrived and rambling. This is not a huge criticism, but just something I noticed. Lillia can now add five digit numbers together, and she really enjoys it. When asked to add 83,640 to 47,257, she exclaimed, “I love extreme math problems!” Edgewood also dealt extensively with percent and averages. I feel that the exercises are getting more difficult, and I often have to talk Lillia through them. But, I have no complaints since that is why we are using this curriculum!

There is a new homeschooling group in Walpole, which meets at the library on Thursdays. I’m interested in going, but also hesitant. We’re kind of a self-contained unit, and I’m a major introvert (it takes a chisel to get me out of the house). Also, Lillia gets plenty of socialization going to the school twice a week, dance classes twice a week, and playdates at least once a week. Still, maybe it would be nice to network a bit. Do any of you take part in homeschooling groups or co-ops? Do your kids enjoy it, or is it more for you (the educator)? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Zane’s Adventures

Last week Zane was really interested in cleaning…





And, he got a haircut!


This week Zane has been building forts,


assisting with closet renovations,


and, nurturing this little baby doll (these “Magic Nursery” dolls were mine as a kid, so they’re at least 20 years old but in remarkably good shape for their age).




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The Sixteenth & Seventeenth Weeks

I feel a bit sheepish today, as I just realized I never finished my post for last week! I got so caught up in things that I never managed to get it done. So, this week will be a combination of the past two weeks. I’m going to try to include info about both kids each week. I know Zane is not doing any formal “schooling,” but his learning is important, too, and I want to share it. But, first…

Lillia’s Adventures

secrets of the sphinx coverOur unit on Egypt is coming along nicely. In the past couple of weeks we’ve read about the discovery of metal and the implications of that discovery for tool-making, the building of temples and pyramids, and Egyptian shipbuilding. I was able to find some great books at the library to supplement the history spine we are using. Last week we read Secrets of the Sphinx, by James Cross Giblin, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. Although it is a picture book, it includes a great deal of information about the building of the sphinx, including the controversy surrounding the nature of its construction (due to the uneven weathering of the body). In my opinion, the author should have spent less time discussing Edgar Cayce and his theory that the survivors of Atlantis built the sphinx and the pyramids. The author does eventually discount this theory, but at points he seems to be trying to make it sound plausible. Other than that, I think this is a wonderful, information-rich book about the sphinx and the pyramids at Giza. One thing I was surprised to discover is that the sphinx was once brightly painted in shades of blue, yellow, and red! It must have been strikingly beautiful when it was new.

pharaohsBoatLgThis week we read Pharaoh’s Boat, by David Weitzman. This picture book tells the story of the discovery of Cheops’s funerary boat buried next to his pyramid in a limestone pit. The disassembled cedar wood boat was in near-perfect condition, despite being placed in the ground almost 5,000 years ago! It took ten years to complete the reconstruction, but the boat is now fully restored and on display at Giza. A second boat has been discovered at Giza, though it is not as well-preserved as the first. As of 2011, the dig to recover the pieces was underway. My favorite part of this story was actually the biographical information about the restorer, Ahmed Youseff Moustafa. Though well educated, he was not taken seriously when he first approached the Egyptian Antiquities Service looking for work as a restorer. He pestered his superiors endlessly, and finally someone gave in and gave him basically a pile of tiny bits of pottery and ivory to reassemble. Imagine their surprise when he returned with a beautiful little box, which is now known as “The Akhenaten Box” and is on display in the Cairo Museum!

We’re still making progress in our other subjects. Lillia has now made it to the letter “O” in cursive. She had a pretty big meltdown earlier this week when she had to write the word “and” in cursive for one of her exercises. But, I patiently talked her through it, and she was eventually able to do it correctly. This is part of the work that we are doing, and we are fortunate to have the time and space to do it.

In Life of Fred: Edgewood, we are learning about percents and bar graphs. We are also doing word problems. Here is an example (Lillia was able to solve this problem by counting by 5’s):

If Fred can jog at the rate of 5 miles per hour, how long would it take for him to jog 40 miles?

Next week I’m hoping to introduce some supplemental multiplication materials. Homeschooling presents an interesting paradox: we have a great deal of flexibility regarding the what/when/how of teaching, which means we don’t have to “teach to the test” like they do in public school – HOWEVER – we are required to show progress at the end of the year, and one way to do that is to have her take the test! So, we are benefiting greatly in some ways by eschewing the need to teach concepts just to pass the test…but we are also expected to pass it. I find myself trying to keep pace with the public school curriculum, despite my general abhorrence of it. I have no doubt that Life of Fred will present multiplication in a beautiful, organic way, but I’m afraid we won’t get there in time for this spring’s test, and I’m sure there will be multiplication questions on it. If anyone has any advice about this, I’d love to hear it. Or, if you want to tell me to chill out and not lose sight of the reasons that brought us to homeschooling in the first place, that would be good, too 🙂

Zane’s Adventures

Zane has been really interested in this baby doll lately.


He kept gently placing her in front of the refrigerator and then talking to her at length about the button on the door handle. The button doesn’t do anything, but it obviously means something to him!


He also got a chance to see the inside of Damian’s computer, thanks to a technical difficulty.


And, let’s not forget the face cream sensory extravaganza! (Not really part of the curriculum, but…)


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The Fifteenth Week

We’re fully back in the swing of things this week, equipped with my newly developed zen attitude toward homeschooling.

We finally started our unit on Egypt! We’re using Chapter 3 of Roy Burrell’s Oxford First Ancient History as our history spine*, supplemented with lots of books we checked out from the library.61NJ9FMZF9L._SS500_This week we read selections from Gods and Pharaohs by Geraldine Harris. This book, beautifully illustrated by David O’Connor, provides a very good overview of Egyptian mythology. There are stories about the various gods and goddesses included, and I really like how Harris interjects occasionally to note that many of the myths we have come to see as “complete” are actually cobbled together from many different sources. For example, when she discusses the creation myths of ancient Egypt, she includes many different versions of the story, each with a slightly different twist. I saw this book on Amazon some time ago, but I wasn’t sure it was worth purchasing. After reviewing the library copy, I think it would be a wonderful addition to our collection.

In Life of Fred: Edgewood, the title’s hero, Fred Gauss, has been forced to go on a vacation of sorts to the remote town of Edgewood, Kentucky. On the bus ride to Edgewood he is teaching us about many things, including this week’s lessons on double-digit addition. Lillia already learned this skill last year in second grade, but it is good to have the review. And, there is so much learning going on within each lesson that it doesn’t feel repetitive. For example, Lillia learned to solve the following equation this week: x + 8 = 13. She, correctly, determined that x = 5. It may not seem difficult to us adults, but the fact that Fred’s author, Stanley Schmidt, is already including simple algebra in his elementary curriculum means that when Lillia encounters algebra later in her education it won’t seem so foreign. As always, I am enormously pleased with the Life of Fred books.

We did another lesson from the Mensa for Kids website. This time we learned about the different levels of classification (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Genus, Species). We learned a couple of useful rhymes to help us remember the them in order. My favorite is:

Keep Ponds Clean Or frogs Get Sick.

As always the kids keep me (and each other) active! Today they had a blast playing in the tunnel we bought Zane for Christmas. It so interesting to see how very differently they play with any given toy. While Zane is still figuring out how to get his body through the tunnel,


Lillia is pretending to be a wolf in a cave!


The most fun they had with it was being in there together 🙂


For those who might question the legitimacy of taking time to crawl through a tunnel during “school” hours, some studies have shown a correlation between crawling and cognitive development and improved academic outcomes later in a child’s life. Crawling helps to develop balance, proprioception, and even binocular vision. Here is a nice article about crawling by two of my former instructors in early childhood education, Susan Weber and Jane Swain. And, some other great ideas to get your kids crawling, from pediatric occupational therapist Loren Shlaes.

I hope you all had a great week!

*As of today (1/11/13) there is a “very good” used copy of this book selling for about $30 on Amazon! This book can be quite expensive to buy, as it is out of print, and is very popular with Charlotte Mason homeschoolers. I paid $37 from Alibris back in July and thought that was a good deal.

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The Fourteenth (and a half) Week

I’m just going to call this the 14th and a half week, because it was only three days long. We took a couple of weeks off at the holidays to recuperate and enjoy each other’s company. I wasn’t sure how best to begin after such a long break, but I decided to ease us back into school with a trip to the public library to pick up books for our next unit.




This week we learned about median averages in Life of Fred: Edgewood. We also finished up our unit on Mesopotamia with a video about the three main cultures: The Sumerians, The Assyrians, and The Babylonians. We are going to be starting our unit on Ancient Egypt next week, and we are both really excited. Lillia has been waiting all year for Egypt.


We are moving along nicely in our handwriting workbook, and this week’s letters were K, L, and M. L was Lillia’s favorite so far (for obvious reasons!). She has been doing all of her work lately without a single complaint. Part of that is because I have been giving her a lot of time to relax in the morning. We don’t usually start our school work until about 10am. I know that’s pretty late for some people, but it works really well for us. I have time to get everything ready, and she has time to ease into the day.


With the start of the second half of the school year upon me, I find myself reflecting on the first half. I have learned so much: about myself; about my daughter; about what learning actually looks like; about what helps people and what hinders them. I wouldn’t call what we do “unschooling” because there is certainly an underlying structure to it all. But, I would never apply the words “rigid” or “strict” to our homeschooling experience. It’s not that the work is easy or pointless, it’s just that I have learned to be more fluid, flexible, and organic. Over the past few months I made a real mental shift, and adopted a new paradigm by which I evaluate the effectiveness of what we are doing. If an outsider were to compare our day to the day of Lillia’s peers in public school, it might look like we weren’t accomplishing nearly as much as they are. But, if one were to drop down and look at the things that we are doing, a beautiful and meaningful picture emerges:

Every day Lillia plays with her little brother. She gets to read and draw whenever she wants. She can listen to music. She plays outside when it suits her. She eats when she’s hungry, and sleeps in when she’s tired. She has lots of free time to discover and develop new hobbies. When we go out to the stores, she holds the door for people and says “you’re welcome” when they thank her, and she means it. She seems so happy, and her anxiety and tantrums have virtually disappeared. I never thought that was possible, and just putting it in writing makes me very emotional. Of course there is no way to put a value on these intangible benefits, but sometimes the things that are worth the most can’t be quantified.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season, and I’m looking forward to sharing the second half of the school year with all of you!

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The Fourteenth Week

This is going to be a brief post, as there is a lot going on right now. There’s all the usual holiday stuff plus Lillia is performing in “The Nutcracker” this weekend, so I have been pretty busy washing leotards, putting hair in buns, and driving her back and forth to rehearsals. I’m pretty tired.

But, it’s definitely worth it.


This week, in Life of Fred: Edgewood, we learned about parallel lines, trapezoids, and rhombuses, and we reviewed sets and functions. We read some stories about Abraham in Stories from the Bible. Lillia was surprised that a woman could have a baby in her nineties. Language arts went well, and Lillia is really starting to put in some effort. It’s amazing what a difference the new books have made. Today (Friday) we had to play catch up since we missed some work earlier in the week due to rehearsal.

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Zane is learning, too! He is really enjoying “drawing” lately. He’s in the “exploratory stage,” so his work is mostly scribbles. If anyone is interested, here is a PDF that describes the various developmental stages of children’s drawings.

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